Finding Bliss and Balance in the Competitive Industry of Teaching Yoga
There is a popular myth going around. Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you even believe it. But before I tell you what it is, I want
you to ask yourself why you became a yoga teacher. Personally, I love the way yoga makes me feel. Not just the physical aspect of it, although I love that too. But inner peace that it brings me. The sense of bliss and endless possibilities. When I leave a yoga class, I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, invigorated. When I step off my mat, the tasks that I have daunted me throughout the day, suddenly don’t seem so unmanageable. I feel like I can accomplish anything and have a positive outlook while doing it. I’m going to make the assumption that I am not the only one that feels this way. I see the students faces when they the room. People who fought with each other over a parking spot before the class, leave the class peaceful and friendly towards one another. They take that energy out with them to the real world. After all, everything we practice in yoga is meant to be applied to your real life, right? Then why is it that so many people, students and teachers alike, believe the myth that you can’t make any money teaching yoga? Are yoga teachers supposed to be so advanced that we should no longer desire material comfort? Maybe in the distant mountains of India, where yogis are the equivalent to monks and their needs are taken care of in a monastery. But this is the real world. And our challenge as First World citizens is to take the bliss that you experience in a yoga class and apply it to all areas of your life. Yoga can help us lead a balanced, meaningful, prosperous life, even off the mat. So my challenge to anyone who loves yoga so much that they want to devote their livelihoods to spreading the inner-bliss that yoga offers, is to take the lessons you teach in your yoga class and apply them to your own life. Not the lesson of how to do a perfect Downward Facing Dog, but the lessons of patience, dedication, balance and harmony. If you approach your yoga business with the same devotion as you to do your practice, financial abundance can be yours!
So what can you do in the real world to make your dream of being a professional yogi a reality? If you were like me, you were super excited to become a certified yoga instructor. You dreamed of landing that perfect yoga teaching job at your favorite studio. But when reality hit, you realized what a competitive business being a yoga teacher is and how low the pay can be for teachers just starting out. But don’t let that discourage you! Instead of giving up and settling for those low paying jobs, figure out what you can do to differentiate yourself in the market. The yoga industry is a multi-million dollar industry! It’s time that you take your slice of the pie. You just have to be a little creative! I’ve put together 10 things that you can do to differentiate yourself from the crowd and help make your dream of teaching yoga not just a reality, but a profitable reality!
1. Brand Yourself! The single most important thing you can do to help yourself stand out as a yoga teacher is to brand yourself. Treat your yoga business like a company. Companies that successfully brand themselves have a solid understand of their target market. They know who their customers are and they target every aspect of their business to attract those people. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions. What do you want to offer to the yoga community? What makes you different from other teachers? Maybe you specialize in a type of yoga that doesn’t have a huge following in your area, like restorative yoga, or a fusion-yoga class. Find something that no one else in your area is doing, and make that your special niche. Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start reaching out to your unique market, micro-targeting your advertising campaigns. Another very important question to ask when developing your brand is “What do I stand for?” Some yoga teachers exclude any type of spirituality in their teaching, either because they view yoga as a sport, or because they feel embarrassed that people will think their class is corny. But I promise you, if you approach your class authentically and incorporate all the spiritual elements of yoga, it will not only help you stand out, it will make you a great teacher. Yoga is so much more than a way to exercise, and every great yoga teacher I’ve ever had has had a practice rooted deeply in spirituality.
2. Create a Website. Like it or not, nobody in this day and age can make a name for themselves without a website. If the thought of learning HTML and CSS makes you want to run for the hills, don’t worry! There are lots of website hosting companies that make designing your website simple, even for the least tech-savvy among us. Be a little creative, play around with one of these services, like GoDaddy, Vistaprint, or Wix. List your classes, your credentials and start a blog on your website that shares your passion for yoga with your visitors. When people see your passion, it can be contagious. People will be drawn to your honesty. Create a mission statement and post it on your website. The more people learn about you as a person and a yogi, the more willing they will be to trust you. You may have heard people talking about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You want your website to pop up when people search for yoga teachers online. But there is so much yoga content out there, that you need to be targeted with the words you use on your site. If you are a yoga teacher from Bath, Maine, make sure you include that information in your website. That way when people search for “yoga teachers Bath Maine”, your website will have a better chance of showing up first in search engine results. Your website will be many people’s first impression of you, so make it personal and authentic. Include a bio, a class schedule, and your certifications. Including a “Hire Me” page can also be beneficial. That way people can request your services for private classes or workshops.
3. Advertise!! Not just on your webpage, but everywhere. Social media is a great way get your message to thousands of people. Start a facebook page, a twitter account, maybe even a linkedin account, and keep your information updated and fresh. Facebook has a very affordable advertising system that allows you to micro-target and geo-target your advertisements, and you pay only when people click on your ad. Create attractive marketing material, business cards, and flyers. Post your print material in local business, coffee shops, and gyms, anywhere you think your target audience may visit. Consider building a partnership with local businesses and host seminars or workshops in exchange for free lessons or increased exposure. The more people see your name, the more likely they will be to think about you when they are looking for a new yoga class.
4. Teach Everywhere! Yoga studios aren’t the only place people can practice yoga. When I got my certification, I had my heart set on teaching where I practiced and received my training. But I live in Los Angeles and go to a very well regarded studio, and competition is fierce. There was no way they were going to hire anyone that hadn’t already made a name for themselves. I got a job at a smaller, less known studio and barely made any money. So I decided I would start my own classes on the beach in Venice every morning. I advertised locally through facebook and meetups.com and listed a suggested donation of $10 per class. Since I wasn’t teaching at a studio, I didn’t have to share my profit with anyone. As word caught on, I soon had between 10-20 people a day show up! I was more than doubling my daily rate working at a small studio! If you don’t have access to a warm beach 365 days a year, that option might not be for you, but there are ways to think outside the box. See if you can find rooms for rent where you can offer regular classes, or even periodic workshops. Many apartment buildings have common areas that often go unused. Offering yoga classes to an apartment building gives you instant access to a large group of people and building management might appreciate the added value that your service would bring to their residence. Many local businesses might feel the same way. Try reaching out to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, gyms, businesses (yoga at lunch!), athletic stores, local parks and country clubs. You would be surprised how many businesses would welcome such a beneficial activity to their clients!
5. Stream Your Classes! Use your website to stream your yoga classes live! If you have the space in your home, create an area where you can practice yoga, and invite a couple of friends to attend your class. Set up a webcam and use it to stream your class live, or upload the video to your website for people to download and use on their own terms. Treat your online class just like you would a live class. By inviting a couple of people to join you, you can use them as models to accurately describe asanas and make adjustments and corrections, that people streaming your video will find helpful as well. This can also work if you are teaching in a studio, just be sure to have the studio owner’s permission. This does not have to be a free service either. Offer your website visitors a couple of sessions for free, and then once they see the value in being able to practice in their own homes, with a live teacher, they will be more likely to pay for the service when their free trial runs out.
6. Spend Time Assisting. If you live in a large metropolitan area, you know just how competitive yoga teaching can be. A good way to start getting recognized, while improving your practice, is to assist one of the big name teachers in your area. Most of these teachers don’t demonstrate their yoga poses at all. They rely on assistants to go around the classroom making suggestions and correcting the student’s posture. I regularly attend one yoga class that consistently has over 50 people. They have at least 5 assistants at a time working the room. This is a great way for you to network with big name yoga teachers and get exposure to hundreds of students. And you get the benefit of attending the classes and honing your practice for free!
7. Create something! Yoga is a multi-million dollar industry, not because of the cost of a class, but because of the accessories. From mats, to blocks and straps, clothes, gym gear, books and instructional videos, there is a constant demand for yoga related gear. I’ve personally bought everything from sprays that make my mat smell good to flip-flops with yoga mantras on them. If you have a flair for creativity, try your hand at starting your own yoga themed business. Use your website to sell your wears, start an etsy store or set up a business for local farmers markets. Whether you create a video or make the next line of yoga clothes, always use the opportunity to build your brand.
8. Find Opportunities Abroad. The first month after I got my yoga teaching certification, I was approached by a friend to teach yoga in Nicaragua for three months. I couldn’t believe such a fantastic opportunity just landed in my lap! I immediately jumped on offer, much to my boyfriend chagrin. I know not everybody will have offers like that right away, but what I learned during my time abroad is how large the yoga travel industry is. There are constantly opportunities out there for teachers who are willing to pack it up and move to a different country for an extended amount of time. This not only gives you great experience teaching, it offers you the chance to see many beautiful countries. Central American is crawling with yoga get-aways and the competition is not nearly as intense. And since most of these resorts are targeted to Westerners, you don’t have to speak Spanish, (but it doesn’t hurt either). Adding an experience like this to your resume gives you instant credibility when you get back to your home country as well.
9. Donate your time. Volunteer work is a great way to expand your reach and increase the size of your network. Many non-profit organizations would gladly welcome the opportunity to incorporate yoga into their programs. Try reaching out to recovery centers and sober living homes, nursing homes or after-school organizations. Donating a little bit of your free time can help you gain lots of exposure and will give you the satisfaction of knowing you are helping those who are less fortunate. You will find that your services will be appreciated more than you can imagine.
10. Don’t Give Up! There will always be people out there who will tell you that you can’t make a good living as a yoga instructor, even (and sometime especially) other yogis. Don’t believe them. By being proactive and devoting yourself entirely to your dream, you can and will be successful! If you find you’ve hit a bump in the road, don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Many yogis fail because they don’t apply the principles that they teach in their classes to their real-world situations. They become competitive and self-obsessed when faced with the challenges of real life. Don’t get sucked into the negativity. By applying your yogi values to every aspect of your life, you will find success in abundance and an inner-peace that will shine through for the whole world to see.